Drug addiction is a chemical dependency on a substance, such as prescription or illicit drugs. Men, women, and children can suffer from this condition. Addiction can develop quickly or can take years to occur. In all cases, treatment is necessary.
In 2016, 63,632 Americans died from drug overdoses. Of those, 66 percent were from the use of illicit opioids and prescription drugs. Overdoses impacted people over the age of 15 of all races and ethnicities and across all urban demographics, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Understanding what drug addiction is will help you to get the support you need or give you guidance on how to help a loved one. FHE Health provides confidential, safe treatment programs for all forms of addiction.
Defining Drug Addiction — What Is Drug Abuse?
Drug addiction is a disease that impacts a person’s brain and behavior. Long-term drug use can lead to a loss of control over taking the drug and a physical inability to stop using the substance even if you want to.
Drug abuse can begin from experimental or recreational use of a substance, in social situations or in private. When this type of recreational use occurs, the “feel good” experience encourages people to continue using that drug more frequently.
In others, drug addiction begins with prescribed medication. For example, you may be prescribed a painkiller to help you after an injury, but the drug’s addictive qualities cause you to become dependent on it to just get through the day.
What Types of Drugs Are Addictive?
An addictive drug is one that encourages either physical dependency, behavioral changes or both. There are numerous types of drugs, each class defined based on how the drug works. Here are some of the most addictive drugs.
A stimulant causes the drug user to feel more alert and full of energy. Also called uppers, these drugs are often used to treat ADHD or asthma. However, stimulant drug abuse can occur when a person uses the drugs to stay awake or to perform better athletically. Some common stimulants abused include:
Depressants work to help slow down the body, which is why they are also called downers. These drugs are used by doctors to help with conditions such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They create a sedative-like experience in people who do not need them for a medical reason, which makes them attractive to some users. A few examples of depressants include:
Hallucinogens change the way the brain communicates, causing more intense changes to emotions and perceptions, often including hallucinations. These drugs can be highly addictive because of the elevated high they create. Common examples include:
Dissociatives are a highly dangerous type of hallucinogen. Long-term use can be life-threatening. These drugs can be attractive because they create a change in a person’s brain chemistry, letting users escape from daily life. Examples include:
Opioids, both prescription-based and illicit, are one of the fastest-growing causes of drug overdoses today. These drugs work as painkillers and can also create a sense of euphoria, which can make them highly addictive. In some people, addiction to opioids can begin within just three days of taking them. Common examples include:
Behavior and Physical Dependency Explained
Over time, the body develops a tolerance for the drug being used and needs more to get the same type of outcome or high. Addiction’s physical dependency also leads to withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using them, which can be highly painful and even life-threatening in some cases. Physical dependency requires drug addiction treatment; a person cannot simply stop using the drug safely.
The behavioral addiction can proceed a physical dependency and stand alone as the driver of non-substance based addictions. Behavioral addiction is the reward for a repeated process. An action can trigger a reward of dopamine creating the desire to repeat it. This is the basis of gambling or shopping addiction. This factor can play into substance abuse and it is reinforced when there is a physical withdrawal from an external chemical.
It’s important to know that physical dependency does not mean a person suffers from a behavioral addiction. However, according to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, physical dependency often accompanies this addiction.
What Is a Drug Overdose?
Many people experience drug overdose during addiction, which occurs when the body has too high a level of the drug in it. The body cannot get rid of that amount of the substance or tolerate it. It often leads to risks such as reduced breathing, unconsciousness and sudden death. Overdoses can be lethal and require immediate medical care.
An overdose can happen accidentally if a person takes more of a drug than they should, including prescription medications. The body cannot process the drug, and organs begin to fail. Signs of an overdose can include chest pain, paranoia, disorientation, confusion, violent behavior, difficulty breathing and seizures.
Signs of Drug Addiction
Drug addiction help can only begin when a person recognizes that a problem exists and takes steps to improve their life. Family members may see signs of abuse such as:
- Intense cravings for a drug, often blocking out other thoughts
- A need to have the drug on a consistent basis
- Continuing to use a drug that has caused ill effects
- Not meeting obligations in a work or school environment
- Failing in efforts to not use the drug, even when desired
- Taking larger amounts of the drug over a period of time to get the same results
- Spending money on drug purchases instead of taking care of obligations
- Physical health changes including a lack of energy, significant weight loss or gain and red eyes.
How to Seek Drug Addiction Treatment
Getting drug addiction treatment is an essential step to protect the life of a drug user. Therapy is likely to include a period of detoxing from the drug in a medically secure facility. From there, both inpatient and outpatient care are available. A customized treatment plan to help a person to understand what he or she is experiencing and how to develop improved coping skills and life skills is critical. Drug addiction treatment provides a safe place for people to understand why they are using, the danger of continuing to do so and how to rebuild their health and relationships.
Drug Addiction Recovery
Drug addiction recovery is a complex process requiring initial support and long-term care. It’s critical for individuals to work closely with a team to provide one-on-one support as well as group therapy. Recovery can mean changes to your lifestyle, yet entering recovery can also mean living longer, rebuilding relationships and achieving more of your goals. Explore the continuum of care we offer here at FHE Health.
Secure Help for Drug Addiction at FHE Health
At FHE Health, we provide a wide range of tools and resources to help people from all walks of life get the help they need. If you want to learn how to help a drug addict or secure help for yourself, call our team today for a no-risk private consultation.